I was sitting in a Legion Hall the other day - June 6, the anniversary of D-Day, when I overheard some RCAF veterans telling war stories. One in particular struck me, and I'll attempt to repeat it here as best I can.
England. September, 1940. A bright blue sky hung high with wispy ribbons of stratocumulus. The air trembles with the roar of aero engines.
"Red Leader to Red Two."
Squadron Leader Massey "Masso" La Chance was in a hard climb over the Channel, his heart thumping with adrenaline, his head twisting and turning. Two minutes of intense, swirling dogfighting and now suddenly the sky was empty. Where the hell did the Jerries go? Where the hell was his wingman?
"Red Leader to Red Two. Teddy, where are you?"
"Red Two to Red Leader. Allan's down in the drink. I see his dye marker. I'm staying with him until Air-Sea Rescue gets here."
"Negative, Red Two! Repeat negative. He'll get picked up. We're low on fuel. Form up and return to base. There's more trade coming. Acknowledge."
"Red Leader to Red Two, do you hear me? Acknowledge."
"Sorry, Leader, message garbled."
La Chance groaned. Damn insubordinate Canadian colonial bastards! Tilting his Spitfire on its side, he spotted Teddy's aircraft far below.
He glanced toward the coast and a slash of white on the sea told him the rescue launch was already on its way. He sighed. Teddy Patterson was his best-scoring pilot and Masso had already cut him a lot of slack. Like letting him paint the figure of a scantily-clad woman on his airplane.
It was bloody well against the Squadron Commanders orders, but the lads liked it. Masso had a reputation in the squadron for being a fearless leader. Truth was, the only thing he really feared was that the boys would think him a stuffed shirt. That, and going down in the Channel. Besides, he knew Patterson and Allan Boswell were best pals. Boswell was American. From Connecticut. Joined the RAF as soon as the war broke out. He and Patterson hit it off right away.
"Okay, Red Two. Stay as long as you can. But watch your fuel. Out." He turned for home with a hot cup of tea and a grumpy Squadron Commander on his mind.
Patterson watched his Squadron Leader's aircraft fade into the distance, and looked down at the sea.
"C'mon. C'mon, dammit." Patterson willed the rescue launch to hurry the hell up. Every pilot knew you had 20 minutes at most in the freezing Channel waters. After that, it wasn't a rescue; it was fishing for mackerel. Patterson circled his friend. Allan had made it into his dinghy okay and waved as Teddy roared overhead, dipping a wing for a better look.
Patterson pondered the situation and eyed his fuel gauge. He had at least 30 minutes fuel, probably more. Okay, he thought. Looks like we'll make that date at the Kings Head pub after all!
That date was important to Patterson. Three days ago he met Daisy. She was a friend of Allan's girl Susanne. Daisy was a stunning brunette with a dazzling smile that made his eyes smart.
She was from some godforsaken place in Wales with a name he couldn't pronounce, Aberystwyth-twitch or something like that. Raised she had said, with humour and reverence in her voice, by her "Grandpa Woz" a kindly and slightly eccentric gent who liked to build model airplanes.
Patterson joked with her through the evening, trying to make her laugh; anything to keep that smile going. He asked to see her again. "Not on your life," she said, flashing her wonderful smile. "Fighter pilots don't last."
"She's bloody right," Boswell declared. "We're all doomed." He had his arm around Susanne and was trying to paw a breast. "Have to make the best of it while we can, eh?" Susanne slapped his hand away and kissed Allan on the lips.
Patterson didn't skip a beat. "I'm gonna make it," he grinned, drinking in Daisy with his eyes.
"How can you be so sure?" she said.
"Look. My Dad is a small-town banker back home. If I don't go back and build an empire he'll come over here and kill me himself. And I know him. He will."
Daisy smiled again. Her eyes were fixed on him as she thought about how cocky this handsome pilot was. And so young. They are all so bloody young and so bloody confident. Despite her better judgment, she agreed. "Okay, Friday then. We'll meet here for drinks, then dinner. Somewhere nice."
Patterson scanned the sky. Up, down, left, right. The rescue launch was approaching Boswell. He looked the other way toward the French coast and caught something out of the corner of his eye. A black speck on the grey surface of the Channel, about a mile out. He turned toward it.
As Patterson approached, another speck appeared on the horizon. A white dot that grew larger by the second. "What the hell?" he muttered, pushing the throttles forward and lighting up the gunsight pipper.
The white dot grew into an airplane. A whale of an airplane. A Heinkel 59 rescue plane, gleaming with red crosses and sporting hulking great floats.
Meantime, two miles to the north, Hauptmann Victor Schumann was at 8,000 feet and barreling for home in his Me109. He couldn't find his leader after a wild scrap with a gaggle of Hurricanes over Kent and he wasn't happy. In fact he was frightened half to death. He was low on fuel and would be lucky to make it back to his base in France. He just wanted to get the hell out of England and across the Kanal.
Sweeping the sky, Schumann looked to his right and down and spotted the Heinkel. Then he saw a Spitfire heading straight for it. Verdammt Englander! Attacking a hospital aircraft! He pulled up in a climb to position himself for an attack.
Patterson flashed past the Heinkel in a head-on pass, breaking for height. He realized the Jerries were rescuing one of their own. That was the black speck he first spotted in the water. Okay by me, he thought. He was willing to live and let live. Besides, he had Allan and that date with Daisy to think about.
Patterson banked away and was momentarily confused by the flashes of light that zipped over his nose.
Tracers! He'd been jumped! He flung the controls into a corner and held his breath as the G forces crushed him down into his seat.
Slamming the throttle into emergency boost Patterson grunted as he craned his neck to see behind him. An Me-109 swam into view, nose guns twinkling as the German pilot snapped out short bursts at the Spitfire.
Patterson held his turn and pulled harder on the stick. Grey shadows crept into the corner of his eyes as the G forces drained the blood from his head. He began to slip around the German machine. If he held this course, he'd come right out on his tail. Schumann knew this and suddenly broke away into a climb, smoke gushing from his exhaust pipes as he firewalled the throttle.
Patterson turned and followed. It was no good. The Messerschmitt was better in a climb and accelerated away. Patterson had an idea. He banked away and leveled off, deliberately exposing himself to an attack from above. The German pilot took the bait, rolling over and diving once more for the Spitfire.
Patterson let him come. Schumann knew from experience that most pilots under attack broke left and down. He aimed just to the left of the British machine as it filled his sights. He pressed the trigger switch.
Patterson timed it perfectly; he broke, not left and down, but to the right and up into a climb. Taken by surprise, Schumann hesitated and sailed past where Patterson had been. Realizing his mistake, he dived in a panic.
Patterson reversed his turn and plunged after the Me109. He quickly caught up and the Messerschmitt loomed in his gunsight.
"Gotcha, bastard!" he cried. His thumb moved to squeeze the gun button. A thought flashed into his mind: my fifth kill. Kill...kill...kill. Patterson hesitated, then did something extraordinary. Roaring to full power, he pulled up alongside the Me109 and slid back the hood. The German pilot gaped in astonishment.
Patterson poked his own chest, and pointed back where the air-sea rescue launch was approaching. He then pointed at the German and gestured toward the Heinkel.
What Patterson was saying was: "Look Jack. I'll cover my boy and you cover yours." Schumann nodded in understanding. He peeled away and Patterson did the same.
When Patterson reached Boswell again, the rescue launch was nowhere to be seen. What the hell? A Walrus aircraft was on the water and picking him up instead.
Patterson didn't care. He circled while Boswell was taken aboard the Walrus, keeping an eye on the Heinkel in the distance. The German rescue crew worked quickly to save their own downed flier, nervous and confused over the Spitfire's strange behaviour in not attacking them, yet relieved one of their own was flying protective cover. They didn't take long to get airborne again and set a course straight for France.
Once the Walrus was on its way with Boswell aboard, Patterson turned back toward the Me109 and the Heinkel. Approaching slowly, he pulled up alongside the German machine once again.
Patterson waved. Hauptmann Schumann responded with a crisp salute and turned to follow the Heinkel home. Schumann was flying on fumes when he touched down at his airbase. His story of the incident spread like wildfire; the Germans were incredulous at the humanity shown by the English pilot in not shooting down the German rescue plane.
When Patterson returned to his base, he said nothing. Boswell was cleared by the flight surgeon and he and Teddy roared off to town for that date with Susanne and Daisy at the Kings Head. Halfway through dinner at the only Italian restaurant in town, Boswell could't hold it in any longer. He stared his friend in the eye, hard, and asked, "Why didn't you go after that Jerry rescue plane? Everybody knows they fly recce on us. Fair game, y'know."
Patterson gulped another mouthful of lasagna, sipped his red wine and looked back at Allan. He shrugged. "I dunno. Just had enough of killing for one day, I guess. Bloody goddamned war." Boswell nodded, but looked skeptical. Daisy looked impressed, and that made Teddy feel pleased. Very pleased indeed.
Postsript: Allan Boswell and Teddy Patterson both survived the war. Boswell married Susanne, moved back to Connecticut and opened a graphic design business. When he retired, he raced fast cars for a hobby.
Patterson married Daisy, returned to Canada and established a successful chain of rural financial credit unions. He then chucked it all to become a journalist. He and Daisy spend their summers in Wales and winters in Arizona.
Victor Schumann became a firefighter after the war, then parlayed his expertise into creating a company that manufactured firefighting equipment. He retired a millionaire, never speaks of the war, and enjoys hiking far into the mountains of his homeland.
Masso La Chance studied law and rose to become a Court Justice. He retired to a villa in Italy, where he walks the beach everyday and still flirts with the girls.
Disclaimer: Okay, I made the whole thing up. Any resemblance to Hyperscale members either past or present is purely coincidental!
Hope you enjoy the yarn!
Previous WIP Builds:
The Big Spit Pt.1
; The Big Spit Pt.2
; The Big Spit Pt.3
; The Big Spit Pt.4
; The Big Spit Pt.5
; The Big Spit Pt.6
The Big Spit Pt.7
; The Big Spit Pt.8
; The Big Spit Pt.9
; The Big Spit Pt.10
; The Big Spit Pt.11
; The Big Spit Finish
; Me109 Pt.2
; Me109 Pt.3
; Me109 Finish
Vickers Tank Pt.1
; Vickers Tank Pt.2
; Vickers Tank Pt.3
; Vickers Tank Pt.4
; Vickers Tank Pt.5
; Vickers Tank Pt.6
; Vickers Tank Finish
; Connies Pt.2
; Connies Pt.3
; Connies Pt.4
; Connies Pt.5
; Connies Pt.6
; Connies Pt.7
; Connies Finish
Cold War Incident
The Lucky Mig